7 Jun 2005

Choiseul official in Solomon Islands plays down calls for secession

3:19 pm on 7 June 2005

The government of Choiseul province in Solomon Islands is playing down calls for the region's secession.

A spokesman for the Batava community in north-west Choiseul, William Kutini, claims to have 2-hundred signatures on a petition, backing his call for talks on independence.

Mr Kutini is also asking for compensation for economic damage caused by the conflict on Bougainville, to the north.

Some people on Choiseul harboured Bougainville rebels, and fled into the bush for a year when Papua New Guinea soldiers arrived to chase their enemies out.

The acting premier of Choiseul, Franklin Papabatu, represents the Batava ward in the provincial assembly... and he denies there's any such moves.

"Mr Kutini only represents a small group of people in Batava area, not the whole Choiseul. But the call he has made is for Choiseul people to secede from the country. That is not representative to the people of Choiseul."

Mr Papabatu isn't aware of anyone standing in this month's Choiseul provincial elections on an independence platform.